Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing, but not "writing"

Xandar peers up at the desktop. Quiet clacking and the occasional sigh are the only things he's heard in days. "What is she doing up there?"

Nekar pats the young man on the shoulder. "It's nearing that time of year again. You're new but you'll get used to it."

"What time? With all that typing I expected some new crumpled pages or characters down here."

"Listen to the typing. Notice anything different?"

"It's too regular. What happened to the long silences, the muttering and the occasaional run for cover when she gets up to trample us while acting out scenes?"

Nekar nods. "Exactly. She's not writing. Not our kind anyway."

Ms. Wildstar wanders over with a frown on her young face. "What other kind is there? I mean, that's worth spending all that time on? She could have written a quarter of a novel by now."

Xander cocks his head. "Were you hoping for some new characters to hang out with?"

"Of course not." Ms. Wildstar stares at the surrounding hills of crumbled paper.

"Cut it out you two. We won't be seeing any new characters around here for a couple months." Nekar points to the glowing screen high above them. "She's writing peptalks, donation requests, a forum full of informative posts, organizing events, and writing down story ideas for NaNo.

"Oh, not NaNo again." Ms. Wildstar wraps her arms around herself and looks to Xander. "You have to watch out for the newbies. They're not the same. Not real characters. If you find one, kill it, cut its head off and bury it."

Xanders eyes grow wide. "Why? What the hell are they?"

"NaNo cast offs." Nekar hands him a Barthromian slingshot. "Sorry, that's all we've got down here right now. Cases of them. Stupid things. She hasn't cut any new weapons in a while and we've used the good ones up."

"I'm supposed to kill it and cut off its head with a damned slingshot?" He holds the rusty metal bar up and examines the yellowed rubber band. "How long have these been down here?"

"A very long time." Nekar hands two more to each of them. "Always stay armed. Once you have them down, paper cut their necks. There's plenty of that."

Ms. Wildstar snorts. "Let's just hope its not a humid day."

"Enough. This is important. These NaNo things, they aren't fully formed and usually dim-witted, but they can show up in masses or alone. Some of them may have abilities we don't know about, ones she didn't fully explore before tossing them out of the story as she's writing. Some of them have family up there." He points to the desktop. "They want to go back and will do anything to make that happen. If we ever want the chance to get back into a WIP, we need to protect her."

Xander tucks his slingshots into to his pants pockets. "And why the decapitation and burying thing?"

Ms. Wildstar does the same. "They turn into zombies if we don't. Kind of hard to get back into a WIP as a brainless character."

Nekar half-stiffles a snicker. "True. How long have you been down here again?"

She glares at him. "Shut up."

"But what happens if we miss one and it goes zombie? How do we kill it?"

"Fire." Nekar takes a long look at all the paper around them. "And that means we all go up with it."

"Oh. Gottcha." Xander stands tall and looks alert. "So what now?"

"We distribute the rest of these slingshots and then wait for November to strike. Good luck to you both." Nekar heads off into the paper with the crate of slingshots. "It's been nice knowing you."

Monday, September 27, 2010

I need a few more of these days throughout the year

Last year my enthusiastic wrimos asked to have an all day write-in during the next year's NaNo. Since my superhero self is buried under a cement slab in the backyard, I'm relying on two wonderful volunteers to secure the location. For my part, I spent yesterday making this poster. The boxing cyborg weasel will also be on t-shirts for raffle and I'll have free stickers for everyone who attends.

33 days til NaNoWriMo. I'm looking forward to a month of reveling in writing - the one time of year when my family and friends accept that I'll sneak off at all hours to write instead of me having to work around everything else that always gets in the way. More importantly, I have to put aside the excuses that I make for myself. Six hundred guilt monkeys are hard to ignore.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mad Men

My husband recently declared that we just had to watch Mad Men because some of our friends loved it and he was sick of feeling out of the loop. Therefore, we conformed with the masses, glued our behinds to the couch and got watching. And watching we have been. Hooray for season DVD sets.

I like the show. I do. However, I'm so frustrated with the amount of skipped opportunities for tension and mystery time lapses between episodes that I want to smoke a carton of Lucky Strikes and pound a few bottles of gin, vodka and/or anything else sitting around.

People have babies and nothing more is said about it until way later, months go by making me wonder where the hell we are at the start of each episode, people argue and then are fine without any explaination, people leave meetings and we find out later that they were fired. There's plenty of tension still there, but I can't help but think of all we are losing because of missed opportunities.

Neck deep in room temperature vodka and without a secretary to bring me more ice, I pledge now to persue all avenues of tension when writing.

Interesting things about Mad Men I have noted while speeding through the first three seasons:

No one ever says "goodbye" before hanging up the phone until season three, episode nine - yet when this momentous dialogue does happen it's as if the character is offended because the person he's talking to didn't say it. For some reason, all calls in this one episode end in "goodbye". Did no one actually say goodbye in the 60's? I don't remember ever noticing that before.

In a scene where the family goes on a picnic: when they are ready to go, they pick up the picnic basket and shake out the blanket, leaving all their trash on the grass. I honestly yelled at my tv, chastising these characters for their blatant 1962 littering ways. In fact, I was still mad about it hours later. Yes, its was acurate for the time, but still infuriating with our current social consciousness.

The writers earned massive bonus points for cutting off an up and coming antagonist's foot with a lawnmower in an office in a way that totally worked. I bow to the NaNoesque absurdity of it.

Everyone will sleep with everyone else as soon as they kiss or share the slightest googly-eyed gaze unless they are gay, then they have the magical power to say no.

The first think a man will do after arriving home from a long day of drinking at the office is pour himself a drink.

You can't film a scene depicting the 60's without at least one person smoking unless its a scene in church. Even then, I'm sure they are all being directed to think about smoking.

We're almost caught up to season four. I'm finding spoilers are everywhere. Don't tell me!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The dreaded question

As I was in my daughters school last week, gently nudging the principal to let me hold a used book drive there, I ran into one of the teachers. Not just any teacher, but the one I'd first done the Young Writers Program with. She was going on about much she loves the program because it gets her students so excited about writing, but she also asked the dreaded question: "So, do you have your novel published yet?"

She wasn't even asking about the novel I've been slaving over for years, rewriting, editing , querying for a short time and now working on again. No, she was asking about my first NaNo novel. The one that hasn't even seen the light of critiquer's eyes yet. The one I've only started a much needed rewriting effort on after letting it sit for four years. This novel being the one I wrote alongside her class to prove that I could write 50,ooo words in thirty days so they also could meet their writing goals.

I'm convinced she purposely hunts me down every year just to lob guilt monkeys at me.

"No." I go on to explain, like I do every year, that I'm using NaNo as an outlet to try new things and to apply what I've learned over that year. How I use NaNo as a break from working on the one novel that I'm really trying to get ready and out into the big world. I then am happy to finally be able to add that I do have a short story out soon, and did have some progress with my efforts toward getting a novel published, but it's not there yet.

For some reason, while this makes me feel positive, it's never quite enough for those who don't know better. "Oh, well that's nice."

I want to explain that you can't turn around and submit your NaNo-wonder-suck-novel to publishers in December, and that the publishing industry grits their teeth every December for just that reason. I want to tell her that what I churn out in November is a horrible rough draft and nothing even close to an actual finished novel. In fact, I am tempted to go on and on, but I know her eyes will glaze over in two seconds and we both have better things to do. Instead, I smile, nod and make a mental note to pick up extra bananas on the way home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day of the Guilt Monkeys

In preperation for NaNoWriMo, I've been busy making new items for raffle prizes to help raise money for our regional donation. This year I'm proud to present a set of four guiltabulous stickers.

This sticker features one of the dominating rabid cyborg attack weasels. These weasels keep us in our seats by patrolling the floors around writing areas until we meet our daily word count. Trust me, you don't want to anger the weasels.

Though less threatening than the rabid cyborg attack weasels, a mob of guilt monkeys is hard to ignore. That one in the back on the right looks less than impressed with my writing efforts no matter how much I try. I guess you can't impress every monkey.

Even less impressed than that monkey above, is this one. In fact, he kind of scares me.

If that array of guilt monkeys doesn't spur you into action, there's this little guy. Do you really want to make him cry? Really?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A dictionary for writers

I'm heading off for a night of tent camping with my kids this afternoon, and I have a lot of packing to do. Rounding up, actually. We're more 'rent a cabin' kinda people than 'campers' so what equipment I do have is scattered between the attic, garage and whatever nook it got crammed into. It's also my daughter's first time spending the night in a tent. Wish me luck.

Why didn't I work on that packing thing yesterday?

I spent the day composing and sending emails introducing the Young Writers Program to local schools. An email pitching NaNo's used book drive fundraiser was composed and sent to the middle school where I do the YWP. I met with the principal at the elementary school were I do the YWP and got her on board with the book drive. Writers Die kits were created and assembled. The last ten of the twenty plot bunnies was finished. Oh, and I worked.

Why the picture of the book if all I'm going to do is ramble about what I did yesterday? That's because, in light of yesterday's mental events, I didn't have a chance to dwell on a blog post. So today I will feature another selection from the NaNoWriMo raffle item stack.

Bryon's Dictionary for Writers and Editors sounded interesting so I picked it up to see what on earth set it apart from any other dictionary out there. Well, it holds the magical answers to all (or at least, many) of those things we overthink, misuse or wonder about.

Not your typical dictionary with dry explaination, this book lists people, places, and terms with explainations with clear examples. Commonly swapped words are listed together such as altar and alter, with their differences pointed out right there so it might actually stick with some of us. Poets, authors, plays, trademarked words. A smattering of French, German and Italian words. It's not all in here, but there's a good cross section to work with.

There's even a hint of humor. Such as this entry:
alright is never correct; make it all right.

The appendix includes:
-The proper usages of punctuation - with three pages devoted to the pesky comma.
-Abbreviations for major worldwide airports
-Conversions for distance and tempertature
-List of main units of currency

There is also a short glossary that covers grammatical terms such as verbs, predicates, participals, etc. It's the perfect, quick refresher for those of us who have been out of english class for more years that we'd like to admit.

On one hand, all of this information is available online thanks to the almighty power of google. On the other, I felt like I was actually learning something in reading through the dictionary, expanding my vocabulary, rather than doing a quick internet search for the proper spelling of a word I already knew. The dictionary section is only 370 pages, certainly no replacement Webster, but of a length I could sit down with and not feel overwhelmed reading through.

Along with the appendix and glossary, I'd say this makes a useful reference book for any writer.
Now I'm reconsidering its placement in the raffle stack. I just might keep this one.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The plot bunny invasion continues

Gracie, this one's for you. Granted, the moustache isn't in keeping with the challenge, but the bunny cried out for one. I lost count of how many times I burnt my finger on the hot glue making that hat. Oww!

In the midst of the churning out all my other NaNo items, I've managed to only give life to three plot bunnies a day. I'd fail as a mother rabbit. Good thing I'm not one. That hot glue gun would be hell on furry little feet.

Yesterday I was able to create and print my stickers for our region, and a set for each of the two schools that participate in the Young Writers Program. I made winner magnets for all three. (Optimistic aren't I?) I also made six t-shirts of various designs and nine posters.

A newly created set of four Guilt Monkey stickers will be raffled off this year at various events. I'll post those friday. They make me laugh and I hope they will do the same for you.

Without further ado, I give you the newest members of the 2010 Plot Bunny warren. I have about ten more to make so suggestions are still welcome.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Plot Bunnies

Along with changing a good deal of names in Trust due to some editorial feedback, my subconscious percolator has finally come up with a way to shave 14k off the word count and bring a good deal of scenes closer together to solve some other issues the novel was encountering. I have been working on it. Honest. But with NaNoWriMo lurking around the corner, my easily distracted mind is in overdrive.

In getting ready for this year's event, I've been working on new posters, t-shirts an a set of stickers based on plot bunnies. This led to checking out a crafy lead I remembered spotting last year: Cute easter bunnies. Easter? Noooo. Plot bunnies!

And so after a trip to the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and then Walmart to find the right kind of baby socks (really, I had no idea it was going to take an freakin hour to find a bulk pack of baby socks with a cuff! Not to mention there must have been a rush on back to school baby shopping because all the hooks, shelves and displays were all decimated.), a small portion of craft supply chaos invaded my living room.

The first few of my warren of plot bunnies came to life. I feel like I should be laughing evily here and milking the giant cow.*
Yes, I'm using buffalo snow for stuffing. It's the same darn thing that you buy for stuffing any other time of year, but after Christmas you can find it on ultra clearance.
Behold, the cute little bunnies. Cute, sure, but not quite there yet. They needed something else. So I went back and raided my craft pile. Mountain, really, but 'pile' makes me sound a little less obessed with crafty stuff, doesn't it? Maybe? Ok, humor me.
After some added flair, I present to you the first occupants of 2010's Plot Bunny warren.

Shh, don't tell my son that I raided his drawer of plastic weaponry left over from MIA action figures. It's a cool barbed sword and it even comes out of the little leather sheath I made for it for extra plot bunny fun!

Up next: the ninja, pirate and princess. Any other suggestions?

*from Heroics for Beginners. If you enjoy humorous fantasy, I highly recommend it.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The editing knife strikes back

"Where the hell am I supposed to put those?" Nekar points to the planet-sized words floating down from my desk.

“Sorry. I had to make some changes in the star system.”

“Why? I liked those names.”

“Me too, but two editors didn’t, so I’m changing a few things.”

The character formerly known as Zsmed storms up to my desk. “A few?” He rips the nametag off his shirt. “I woke up this morning with this. Why in Geva’s name am I now called: Good-looking-cocky-fighter-pilot-that-once-slept-with-Ms-MC-and-was-violently-killed by-Mr-MC? Do you have any idea how much of a mouthful that is? Delilah ran out of breath when she yelled my name this morning and almost passed out.”

“You two arguing? I thought you were getting along.”

Good-looking-cocky-fighter-pilot-that-once-slept-with-Ms-MC-and-was-violently-killed by-Mr-MC scowls. “We weren’t arguing.”

“Oh. Oh! Right. You know, I created the lot of you, unless I’m writing the intimate scene, I really don’t want to hear about the details, ok? I’m glad you’re still getting along though.”

He taps a foot and cocks his head. "My name?"

"I had to give it away. I could give you the one I traded it for, but I'm confused enough as it is. You guys have all had the same names for years, this is going to take some getting used to."

“I don’t even know what race I am anymore!”

“Yes, well, I had to make some changes there too.”

“And what are you going to do about this then?” He waves the nametag in my face.

“I suggest you don’t ruin that. You’ll be needing it for awhile. You might also want to watch out for-“

Good-looking-cocky-fighter-pilot-that-once-slept-with-Ms-MC-and-was-violently-killed by-Mr-MC is swept off the desktop as another discarded planet’s name drifts downward. He yells and shakes his fist at me while clutching a giant B.

A strange stabbing sensation accosts my toes. “What the…” I peer under my desk.

Another character, his tattered clothing covered in dust, raises his knife for another blow.

“Stop that!”

He glares up at me. “I’ve killed an entire warren of killer dust bunnies, traversed the forest of cables and survived months in the dark darkness that transcends black behind your desk. And now I come back to this?” He points at his nametag. “Do you think you can tell me what to do?”

“Put the knife down! That hurts!”

“On one condition. I want a new name.”

“What, you don’t like: Bulky-short-haired-hot-tempered-violet-ex-partner-who-sold-out-Ms-MC-and-caused-her-serious-emotional-harm-before-she-hunted-him-down-and-killed-him?”

“How can you even read that from up there?” He examines the nametag. “This has got to be two point type to all fit on here.”

“I’m all-knowing, remember?”

“Is that so? I bet you didn’t know I was going to do this.” He pulls out a gun and aims it at me.

“No, but I do know that the gun is empty. Otherwise you would have shot me to begin with and not bothered with knifing my foot.”

Bulky-short-haired-hot-tempered-violet-ex-partner-who-sold-out-Ms-MC-and-caused-her-serious-emotional-harm-before-she-hunted-him-down-and-killed-him tosses the gun aside. “How do you know I would do that?”

I reach down and pat him on the dusty head. “It’s all in the name dear. Now go find some cover until the rest of the big changes hit the ground.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A visitor from out of place

Hello there. My name is Kevin. I love those little berries that are on the russian olive trees this time of year. I love them so much that I found myself alone in the middle of a suburb with a plentiful russian olive population. The other stupid flocking turkeys that live in the area, don't know what they're missing.

Did you know that a group of turkeys is actually called a rafter? I bet not. Only turkeys called Kevin who use google know that.

You might be thinking Kevin is a silly name for a turkey, but the young girl who named me thought it was utterly approriate for some reason. I try my best to ignore her and her dog that wants to come out and say hello. At least I'm pretty sure that's what he's saying when he jumps up and down behind the picture window. It's hard to tell with all his whining.

For the past three mornings, I go to the big russian olive bush in the girl's front yard and scrounge for berries in the grass. When I eat all of those, I jump up and nip them off the branches. It's very good exercise, you know. But now, this girl, she comes out every darn morning, in the middle of my berry breakfast, with her backpack on and begging to have her picture taken with me.

No freakin way. I don't care how much distance is between me and her, it's not enough.

I run as fast as my long, meaty turkey legs will carry me into the safety of the neighbor's yard across the street, and then work my way into the backyard of the lady next to them and into the places only turkeys like me know to go to hide from camera happy little girls.

Can't a lonely turkey eat breakfast in peace?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You know what they say about assuming?

Every time I catch myself typing 'assume', I hear the voice of an office manager I worked beside years ago. She was fond of muttering under her breath about our boss and clueless customers. If I had a dime for everytime I heard "When you assume it makes an ass out of you and me", I'd be on a beach with an umbrella drink waiting for my massage instead of sitting at my computer.

There are times in life where you have to be confident that you're doing the right thing. That you know what you're doing. That you've sent your submissiom to the right email address with the right information included and in the right format. But it also pays to tone down the assume level with a smidge of paranoia that makes you double check so you don't make an ass out of yourself.

In the past week I've had two prime examples. One made me laugh (an annoyed laugh, but a laugh nevertheless). The other made my blood pressure shoot through the shingles first thing in the morning.

When I opened up my work email to gather my online orders, I came across this gem: The customer orders an item. The size and specifications for the item are clearly listed on the order. The customer leaves a note at the bottom that states: I see this item is for (my particular vehicle) up to the 2006 model year. My current item is this size (lists entirely different size) and is a 2008. "I assume that because the item is listed as (my particular vehicle make), it will fit."

Serious head desk moment for me here. I thought this guy won the assumption of the year trophy for his blatant disgregard for logic.

But no. The next morning, he lost his day old title.

I wake to hear heavy equipment on the road outside. Annoyed, I peek out the window to see what neighbor was getting a tree removed or something. My eyebrows rise as I recognized one of our customer's trucks. They rise further when I realize there are also two dumptrucks and a huge flatbed with a bulldozer. Grabbing my clothes, I mutter, "What the hell is going on?"

A quick dash down the stairs later, I snatch the phone off the wall and dial my husband at work. "Did you schedule the lawnwork we'd talked about four months ago and never go a quote on from (our customer)."

"Uh, no. Why?"

"He's here. With trucks. I think they're ripping up the back yard already." I peek out the window. Sure enough, the efficient crew is hard at work within five minutes off the truck.

"He never even gave me a quote!" My husband sounds nearly as flustered as I am. "I noticed he left me a message this morning, but I was in a meeting until a few minutes ago. We weren't going to do anything with the yard if we couldn't trade a job and he never got back to me."

"Well he's here now. I think. There's two guys here anyway. I guess see if he's one of them and find out what is going on."

Turns out the boss isn't there, so I speak to a now thoroughly embarrased and confused employee. He calls the boss. The boss claims he had the ok to do the job. Perhaps, he suggests, I should call the boss. He gives me the number.

Paranoid as I am, and with the office manager's voice chanting in my head, I call my husband again to verify that there was no schedule or quote before confronting the boss.

The boss doesn't like me anyway because, you know, I'm inadequate because a woman. Yeah, he's that kind of guy. This means I don't have to pretend to be nice because this dislike thing has become mutual. If I'm the bad guy questioning the job, the men get to remain good with one another. I don't mind being the bad guy.

Nope, there was never any contact other than the intitial interest in getting a quote on the possible job trade. I call the boss.

"So, your guys are here ripping up my lawn. How much is this going to cost and what exactly are they even doing, because we never even got that information from you."

"I gave your husband a quote. He said it sounded good and to schedule the job. Now seemed like a good time, before the leaves started to fall."

"He never got a quote from you. We didn't know you were coming. Your guys have ripped up my underground robotic lawnmower wiring because I didn't get any notice to move it."

"I guess I should have called yesterday."

One day's notice would have beat none, but really? What if we had been on vacation or something? It's not like he waited to hear back from us, they just showed up and started working. Jeez! I give him a nice long, dead silence.

He starts to sound a little worried. "I have the numbers here somewhere. I thought I gave them to your husband. Maybe I didn't."

"You didn't."

"We'll make it an even trade. Don't worry about it."

Worry about it? You just ripped up my lawn without warning, without any estimated cost, and without any sort of approved plan. I'm not worried. I'm pissed off.

But, he's a customer. A big assuming customer. There's a limit to how much of a raging witch I can be and still keep his business. I grit my teeth.

"Since you've already ripped up my grass and tore up my underground wiring, you might as well go ahead with the rest of it."

At which point he apologized profusely, and I handed him the assumption trophy.

I don't even want to see what assuming wonders this next week might bring. Hopefully none of them will be mine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just one more thing

I'm one of those suckers who volunteers for everything. I admit it. If you sound desperate enough, I'll probably raise my hand and pile on another obligation. But there's a limit. Really, there is.

The phone rings. A familiar Boy Scout dad's voice says, "I need you to run our upcoming popcorn fundraiser."

"I'm sorry, I really can't."

The superhuman inside me seems to have worked the duct tape on her mouth loose. She mumbles something the sounds like, "Say yes." I kick the bound superhuman and wave at her to shut up.

"We were really hoping you would."

"I have too many other things going already during that same time."

Superhuman rolls her eyes. I apply new duct tape before she can scream, "I'll do it!".

"Your name was brought up by several people who thought you'd be right for the job."

"I'm sure it was." I take a deep breath. "You have to understand, during that same couple months, I have to purchase materials and create nine hundred christmas craft kits for my daughter's school. I'm also a Girl Scout leader and have meetings and crafts to organize. We have a PTO fundraiser I'm helping with. I have NaNo raffle items to solicit and some to create and write-ins to set up. I have the Young Writer's program to pitch to new schools and organize in the two I already do. I'm running a book drive for the entire county, and I just signed up to be on the funding committee for the school system. Did I mention that I also run a business?"

He doesn't miss a beat. "I might have someone else that can do it, but can you at least help her?"

I give Superhuman one last kick and rip off her shiny red cape. With a quick twist, I put it on. "I'll do what I can, but I'm not promising anything big."

"Thanks. We'd really like you to take this over next year so keep that in mind."

After hanging up the phone, I drag Superhuman out to the back yard, toss her in a hole and bury her. After standing there minute, I pile on a few cinderblocks for good measure.

There, maybe now I'll still find a little time to write.

Getting groovy

It's almost time to get back into the groove. School starts next tuesday. That means no more waving the husband off in the morning and crawling back into bed for an few minutes (an hour or two) before realizing I've slept all my writing time away and the kids have slept until 10. Again.

This is adjustment week. Up at 7:00am - 'up' as in awake enough to turn on the news and wave the husband off to work. I've been waking the kids up earlier each day. We were down to 7:30 this morning. Bed times have also been adjusted. So far everyone is taking the return to routine pretty well. Evenings have been filled with school open houses, and PTO, Girl Scout and Boy Scout planning meetings. Ah, fall. I'd love to say that I can smell it in the air, but its ninety degrees and horribly humid again today, and I don't want to think about what that funky smell is.

Very soon, I'll have the silent house to myself. I'll get some uninterupted writing time. Of course, there's still work to be done and volunteer obligations to meet, but I'm excited nevertheless.

Rewrites, short story fixes and Sahmara edits, I'm coming for you!